April 16, 2019 184
April 16, 2019 184
Personnel management and industrial relations are two of the most critical functions performed by managers in business organizations. All the activities of any enterprise are initiated and determined by the persons who make up the institution. Plants, offices, computers, automated equipment and all else that a modern firm uses are unproductive except for human effort and direction. Of all the task of management, managing the human component is the central and most important part, because all else depends upon how well it is done. Personnel administration is that enterprise function which is specifically concerned with managing the human component in organizations.
This article focuses on specific attention to the evolution, as well as current practices in the personnel field, in African’s indigenous organizations.
The above question may appear relatively simple to answer at first. To answer the question ‘who do personnel work?’ requires that we differentiate between the personnel functions of all managers and supervisors and the personnel functions of personnel managers.
All managers and supervisors, who in one way or another have responsibility for the performance of one or more subordinates in the organization, have personnel functions. These functions are those that deal especially with the human relations aspects of the interaction, between the manager, or supervisor, and the subordinates. Thus, the manager must motivate the subordinates to perform. He or she can do this by providing effective leadership and ensuring that the subordinates are adequately rewarded. The manager must also develop an effective means of communication.
Apart from these areas, the manager is often involved in determining such issues as who goes for training and who gets promoted. The manager will also be in involved in the discipline of subordinates. While human relations functions of the manager are his core personnel functions, these other personnel functions are also equally important. Perhaps the best way of illustrating the fact that all managers, irrespective of their functional area of specialization and their location within the organizational hierarchy and perform personnel functions would be to examine the skills that all managers require for the performance of their functions.
These skills are of the three types; human, technical and conceptual. Human skills refer to the ability of the manager to handle interpersonal relations. Thus, they include the ability of the manager to build team spirit and to be able to work efficiently with others, in order to achieve set goals. Technical skills, on the other hand, derive from the manager’s knowledge of the specific methods, processes, and techniques required for the performance of particular work activity. These skills differ, depending upon the work activity being considered.
Finally, connectional skills relate to the ability of the manager to see the interrelationship between the various parts of the organization, as well as that between the entire organization and the environment. It is the ability to see the forest apart from the trees, and on this basis, to be able to coordinate and integrate the parts. While conceptual skills are required most by those who direct the entire affairs of the organization, technical skills are required most by those in junior management positions. Human skills, on the other hand, are required equally by all managers, irrespective of their location within the organizational hierarchy.
The person designated personnel manager performs all the personnel functions of all managers. Besides performing these functions, however, he or she usually has competence in a technical sense in dealing with people-related problems. These aspects of the personnel managers’ work are those that are properly designated as the technical or personnel functions of personnel managers. These functions divide broadly into two groups: staff functions and line functions.
The staff functions of the personnel manager’s work are those areas, where the personnel manager acts more or less in an advisory capacity to other managers. In these circumstances, the personnel manager usually does not have the authority to commit the organization to a final course of action. Among these staff functions are:
A policy is a statement of intention of committing management to a general course of action. The personnel manager helps in initiating policies in virus personnel areas. Usually, there are six principal bases for initiating and formulating such policies:
Apart from initiating and formulating policies, the personnel manager also helps in communicating stated policies. Such policies are usually written down, in order to standardize and let everyone know what kind of treatment they can expect to receive from management in the anticipated circumstances.
The personnel manager is also very much involved in counseling and advising other operating managers, on numerous problems and procedures. The manager who wants to give an employee accelerated promotion, or terminate an employee’s appointment, usually seeks the advice of the personnel manager, as the first could upset established procedures and expectations, while the second could lead to serious industrial relations problems.
The personnel manager renders numerous services to other operating departments. Such services often include designing and installing programmes in the areas of training and management development, performance appraisal, motivation, health, and safety. Other services rendered by the personnel manager include recruitment, selection, and placement of staff for other departments, settlement of disputes and grievances, etc.
The personnel department monitors the performance of other departments against established personnel, procedures, and rules, with a view to taking corrective action. This is especially important in the areas of health and safety, discipline and discharge, and industrial relations.
In the small business organization, recruitment decisions are taken in a sort of ‘putting out the fire’ fashion. Vacancies are filled as they occur, and the decision to increase or reduce the work-force is based on the ongoing experience of managers, with work activity. While this approach may do for the small organization, employing say, less than twenty individuals, it will be completely unsatisfactory in the larger organization. Adequate returns on this kind of expenditure and investment in human resources and related activities will occur only to the extent that they are themselves based on a comprehensive and clearly throughout manpower resources planning programme.
A comprehensive manpower resource planning programme starts with input from other sub-systems of the organization. For example, what is the rate of growth of the company? What changes in technology, markets, and even company objectives are being anticipated? At the level of description of available manpower pool, the question is to ascertain the nature of the present workforce, in terms of quantity (number of employees available in the various job categories, against actual needs) and quality (skills and talents available in relation to actual needs). It is this information which provides the real basis for the decision to recruit, select and place. Other components of the manpower planning system are directly relevant to the future development of the employees, as well as methods to be used in such development.
We have already suggested that the success or failure of any organization is largely dependent upon the caliber of its workforce. However, what caliber of people comes to be employed in an organization is in turn determined to a very large extent by the quality of the organization’s recruitment, selection and placement policies and practices.
This is the process of seeking out and attracting employees to fill positions required, for the successful conduct of the affairs of the organization. Before embarking upon a recruitment exercise, an organization must decide between a number of key recruitment policy alternatives. These are whether:
In the case of government-owned businesses, there is the additional choice between bending company recruitment policies to executive orders, or completely disregarding these orders in favor of a policy which is consistent with the objective of the organization. This policy alternative is closely related to 1 and 3 above.
The recruitment programme goes beyond choosing between alternative policies courses, to include the actual methods that are used in the creation of a pool of available and able labor, from which the organization may draw in times of need. These methods include advertising in newspapers, colleges, and universities, in order as they say, ‘to catch them young’. Other methods of recruitment are waiting for unsolicited applicants to report at the gates of the business organization, utilizing employment agencies and ‘headhunting’ in conferences and seminars. Additionally, however, and where a company pursues a policy of recruitment from within, other methods of recruitment, such as the secret review of employee’s personnel records and the open posting of jobs for competitive bidding are used. Again, some organizations announce to their own employees or unions that they are looking for additional people to fill existing vacancies.
Two other issues are important in the recruitment programme. Where recruitment is geared towards outside sources, then it is important that recruiters, as well as the advertisements that may be placed, do not oversell the job or the organization. Secondly, it is equally important that all hiring decisions are centralized in a particular department. The problem that may arise from lack of centralization is clearly illustrated in the case of a state-owned cement company where three young male employees reported to the wages office at the end of the month, only to be told that their names were not on the personnel records of the company. Upon investigation, it was discovered that the men had been employed by the Personnel Director (a political appointee) of the company, who had, however, not communicated his actions to Personnel Officer, charged with recruitment. The three men retained their jobs but only after a major conflict had occurred.
This next step in the employment programme is the process of choosing from the available pool of potential employees those judged qualified in terms of the requirements of the job and the organization. Four major policy issues must be resolved before the implementation of the selection procedures. These policies revolved around:
A more reliable method is the scientific procedure which consists of a battery of tests, carefully designed by industrial psychologists to measure human behavior and ability in various areas. Among such tests are aptitude tests, achievement tests, vocational interest tests, temperament and personality tests, situational tests and safety tests.
While the uses of carefully designed tests are important in any selection procedure, it is equally important to stress that they do not provide all the answers to the selection problem. The personnel manager must also be perceptive and aware of the environment of work, so that good judgment can be made as to whether a particular applicant will be well suited to a situation. That this is crucial is well illustrated by the following case examples.
Some time ago, a large pharmaceutical company in Nigeria employed a highly qualified and very attractive young lady to work as a stenographer in an office, where there were several male pharmacologists and two middle-aged female secretaries, who had been with the organization for several years. Although the young woman performed her work very well, and all the men, including her boss likely her, she was eventually forced to resign because of the antagonism of the two older women, who resented her popularity with the men. The implication is clear; managers may select applicants to meet with the requirements of the job. Additionally, however, the human factors in the situation may militate against effective performance in their jobs.
Selection tests (the applicant is tested during the interview using a combination of relevant tests).
The final stage in the employment function is placement, where the organization actually matches the individual with the demands and rewards of the job. Since this matching is often difficult, the status of the new employee on the job is often that of a probationer, which implies that both the employee and the organization are on trial. Placement often consists of three sub-processes:
An important function of the personnel manager and the personnel department is the administration of wages and salaries. Although conventional usage reserves the term ‘wage’ for payment of workers, and salaries for payment of senior categories of staff, developments in the industry have tended to blur the distinction, as all categories of staff have to receive their payments, not in cash, but by means of cheques channeled through banks.
However, the administration of wages and salaries concerns the determination of the money value of the various jobs performed in the organization, as well as methods by which such money may be paid, in order to increase employee commitment, motivation and productivity.
Many factors determine the wage level in any particular organization. These factors are summarized below.
1. Nature of the job
2. Nature of Company and Industry
3. Nature of Economy and Community
Generally, the first and most important factor is the nature of the job itself. This will usually be established on the basis of detailed job analysis and evaluation.
A job requiring higher skill and effort will tend to be paid higher than one that requires less skill and responsibility or effort. Next is the importance of the company and the industry in which the company is located. In Africa, for example, small firms have usually argued for exclusion from the law on minimum wages. Finally, and also of great importance, are factors which derive from the nature of the economy and community.
A major feature of the country’ economy is the frequent settlement of wage levels, through commissions appointed by the government for the sole purpose of reviewing salaries.
Many methods exist for paying wages and salaries and companies will usually choose a method to reflect their own objectives, the type of personnel being considered and past practice or planned innovations in the organization. These are:
Whatever method of wages or salary payment is used, the overall objective must be to relate the money wage to actual performance on the job. This carries with it the implication that an effective wage and salary system must be one that motivates employees to superior performance. In a developing economy where there is still a great deal of poverty among the working class, the administration of the wages and salaries programme becomes one of the important elements, in the organization’s overall motivational system.
This is a subject of growing importance in many, if not all, Nigerian business organizations. This is not surprising, considering the fact that in 1977/1978, there were as many as 144 strikes in the private sector, and 9 strikes in the public sector, involving 97,832 workers or a total loss of 448,335.7 man days.
The fact then is that the achievement of organizational objectives depends a great deal upon the existence of industrial harmony. In turn, the achievement of industrial harmony requires the application of a number of industrial relations techniques. Generally, however, these techniques will be effective, depending upon whether or not the management has an adequate understanding of the nature of industrial relations.
Many writers on industrial relations have expressly been concerned with providing solutions to the practical, ongoing issue of industrial conflict. Thus, although there are a lot of publications under the general subject area of industrial relations, there have been few conceptual discussions of the nature of industrial relations. It has generally been assumed that the nature of industrial relations is synonymous with industrial conflict.
Certainly, the world of employment and work is pervaded by rules of various kinds, whose major objective is to regulate the relationship between the two major industrial groups-management and labor. Also, the institutions which devise implement and maintain these rules are of great importance in the study of industrial relations. However, a closer examination of this focus shows that in terms of coverage, at least, the understanding of industrial relations which it provides is certainly inadequate.
For example, rules are usually made in relation to some situation which has been experienced. This experience, which is the heart of industrial relations, thus precedes the making of the rules themselves. A good example of this is provided by the 1976 regulations on the structure of Nigerian trade unions. The regulations constituted all the industrial unions into one central organization. The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) arose specifically from the experience of over half a century when the industrial unions could not on their own form one central labor organization for any reasonable length of time. Similarly, recent debates about splitting the Nigerian Labour Congress into two rival labor federations arose from the success of the NLC in organizing the week-long national strike of 1981. Again, the procedure devised by the government for settling disputes and resolving industrial conflicts in business and other organizations arose from the unsatisfactory experience of most organizations with past procedures. The implication then is that ‘rule’ provides only one aspect of the scope of industrial relations.
A different view on the nature of industrial relations is provided by writers who adopt a political perspective on organizations. Richard Hyman, who belongs to this group, has concluded that ‘an unceasing power struggle is a central feature of industrial relations’ power is the ability to determine the parameters of one’s own conduct and action. It is the ability to control one’s own conduct and action. It is the ability to control one’s own situation.
The actors in the industrial relations situation – managers and workers – are seen from this perspective as being involved in a constant struggle to control the situation under which they both severally and jointly work along the line dictated by their class and other interests. From the point of view of this book, this latter perspective has a lot to recommend it; the study of the struggle between managers and workers for control over workplace relations.
This understanding of industrial relation pays particular attention to the processes and practical nature of industrial relations since it suggests that industrial relations are an ongoing practice in which rules merge to regulate these practices, only in turn to be affected by the same practices. In a developing economy, this understanding of industrial relations is certainly realistic. It directs attention to, rather than away from, the objective differences in the positions, as well as interests of managers and workers, which are often more pronounced and easier to perceive in the early stages of industrialization.
To perform effectively, the personnel manager, as indeed all managers in the business organization, must understand the nature, functions, and structure of trade unions, especially those whose activities directly influence the operations of their business. A unique characteristic of Nigerian Trade Union Law is that it recognizes the right of employees and employers to form trade unions. A trade union under the law is thus any combination of workers or employers, whether temporary or permanent, the purpose of which is to regulate the terms and conditions of employment of workers. While most Nigerian workers are organized under one central labor organization the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), most employers have organized in various trade or employers’ associations.
Some of the problems that managers experience in industrial relations can be reduced if they adequately understand the motivation of workers to join unions. In fact, as will be shown later, one major cause of industrial conflict in Nigeria is related either to the anti-union practices of management, or refusal by management to recognize or allow the formation of unions. Beyond the provision of the law which currently authorizes the automatic membership of workers in many industrial unions, workers experience a real need to belong to a union. One reason is that membership of a union gives the worker greater bargaining power, in relation to an employer who is seen as all-powerful. Again, for most workers, the union is the only avenue of communicating their aims, ideas, and feelings to management. Additionally, the worker often sees the union as protecting him or her against discrimination by management. Finally, belonging to a union often satisfies worker’s social needs for affiliation, belonging and love. In a business environment with all its alienating tendencies, this last function of unions is of crucial advantage to management. The first attempts to form a union in Nigeria were towards the end of the last century. However, those attempts were seriously resisted by the colonial government in the country.
The third actor in the industrial relations situation is the government. Government is an actor, not only because it is a major employer of wage labor in Nigeria, but also because it often sets the parameters within which management and labor interact. It has often been pointed out that because of the first role of government, that is, as an employer; it cannot act as a neutral arbiter between management and labor, over industrial relations problems. Secondly, the interests of the government in a capitalist society, it is also stated, always coincide with the interests of the employer, ruling class. Thus, both the ideology and practice of industrial relations are said to be permeated, very heavily, with what the employer class, through government, often wants.
The more important point to emphasize, however, is that these criticisms confirm, rather than take anything away from the crucial role of government, in the conduct of industrial relations. Often, many employers in other organizations follow the practice of government as an employer. Much more importantly, the laws and regulations made by the government in relation to trade unions, employers’ associations, trade union activities in essential services, and the methods of settlement of industrial disputes, have usually formed the basis of the contrived relationships between management and unions.
Therefore, changes in government practices as employers, and in government legislation, have often led to sweeping changes in many areas of industrial relations practices in private sector organizations. Sometimes, these changes have led to greater industrial harmony. At other times, they have led to great industrial unrest. Clear examples of the latter case are provided by widespread agitations which often accompany the publication of the reports of commissions appointed by the government, on wages and conditions of work.
A major advantage of the definition of industrial relations, in terms of the struggle for control over workplace relations, is that it directs attention to the possibility of emergency conflicts between managers and workers. And indeed, the subject of industrial conflict – its nature, causes as well as management – is the central and most crucial aspect of industrial relations.
Although strike activity is the most overt expression of industrial conflict, it is not a full expression of the phenomenon. Although strikes may be taken to denote the existence of conflict, the absence of strikes does not necessarily signify an absence of conflict. In other words, strikes are but one of many expressions of industrial conflict. Workers use many sanctions and strategies in pursuit of their goals, machine breakage during early industrialization, working to rule, industrial sabotage, labor turnover, and absenteeism.
On the part of managers, conflict may be expressed in open violence-shooting, imprisonment or retrenchment of workers, lockouts, or in more subtle forms, such as the disorganization of established unions, and the prevention of the formation of unions, the maintenance of a large army of unemployed, hoarding of information, etc. Industrial conflict, therefore, has to be understood in terms much broader than that provided by the strike.
As a working definition, we shall understand industrial conflict to denote actions taken by either employers or employees, which are designed to maintain or increase their control over workplace relations, against the wishes and resistances of others. Among these actions, the strike is the most prominent.
A correct understanding of the nature of the industrial conflict is an essential component in any strategy directed towards its management. Another equally important component is the understanding of the numerous cause of industrial conflict. In a review of the data on business and non-business organizations, the following factors as being the most important causes of industrial conflict in Africa, most especially Nigeria.
There are two basic mechanisms for the regulation of industrial conflict in business organizations. The first is that which is laid down by the government, the second is that which evolves from within the organization as it adapts to experience. Government regulations on the settlement of industrial conflicts are contained in the Trade Disputes Act No. 7 of 1976 and provide as follows:
(a) Setting out the award;
(b) Specifying the time (not being more than 21 days from the date of publication of the notice) within which, and the manner in which, a notice of objection to the award may be given to the Minister.
If no objection to the award is given, the Minister will confirm the award, which becomes binding on the parties.
In spite of the provisions of the Decree, it has been observed that many industrial disputes have occurred, which have breached the provisions themselves. Again, it has been reported that major disputes between employers and employees have usually been settled either through collective bargaining or through conciliation and unofficial third party interventions. The implication is that the provisions of the law have been ineffective, as far as the regulation of industrial conflict has been concerned. The major reasons for this situation have been attributed to the actions of government as are borne out in the case examined below.
In 1969, five officials of the Customers Preventive Staff Union of Nigeria successfully sued the Registrar of Trade Unions to have them registered as a Union. The response of the government, which had opposed the unionization of the workers all along, was to dissolve the union by amending the trade union law by Decree No. 27. The decree provided that employees in government establishment who are authorized to bear firearms can neither form nor join existing trade unions.
Thus, the fact that government can undermine its own laws through various devices has tended to reduce confidence in the laws themselves and to encourage parties in dispute to rely more upon their own internal procedures and arrangements.
Internally, every business organization also evolves its own procedures for managing industrial conflict. The collective bargaining machinery of most firms and their grievance handling procedures are designed to resolve industrial conflict. However, no matter how elaborate these procedures are the most important strategies for dealing with industrial conflict. However, no matter how elaborate these procedures are, the most important strategies for dealing with industrial conflict are in the areas of the leadership and motivational processes in the organization. A well-motivated workforce will have less need to engage in conflict resolution. Thus, what is done in the area of motivation is by far the most important in the management of industrial conflict. Therefore, it might be well to conclude this section with the statement credited to the Director of the US Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service a number of years ago:
“You can’t write any ticket or any procedure on how to handle it (industrial relations) except this: in our company – I am going to try to impress this on the industrialists here – we are going to get about the type of labor leadership that we develop by our own actions. If in dealing with labor organizations we are ethical, are entitled to the confidence of people, use fair tactics and use friendly attitudes, we will get that in return; if we are going to be militant, use underhand tactics, and fight all the time, that is the type of organized labor that we will get. So, I think we must all realize that where we are going to get about the type of leadership that we are ourselves.
This statement is an instructive as it is insightful.
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